Concealed Carry Factors: Quantifying the Choice of a Concealed Carry Handgun

I am working hard these days on a paper I will be presenting at a symposium on “The Symbolic and Material Construction of Guns” at Amherst College this March. The title of the paper is: “‘The First Rule of Gunfighting is Have a Gun‘: Technologies of Concealed Carry in Gun Culture 2.0.”

The first part of the title is a quote from gun writer Mark Moritz. I was toying with the idea of titling the paper “Carry Your Damn Gun,” quoting gun trainer Tom Givens of Rangemaster. But since Givens says he is just paraphrasing Moritz, I thought I would acknowledge him, too.


In the paper I approach Gun Culture 2.0 as a culture, thinking about it in a way that recalls the origins of the term “culture” itself, from the Medieval Latin culturare – to tend or to cultivate. Put briefly, “Culture, in this sense, amounts to ways of taking care of things.”[1]

I examine gun culture in this particular paper by focusing on guns and gun-related accessories as cultural objects created for specific purposes, frequently to address the challenges of concealed carry. They respond to and facilitate cultural practices of gun carrying which are central to Gun Culture 2.0. Because the first rule of gunfighting is have a gun.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Consequently, a large segment of the “Gun Culture 2.0 Industry” focuses on developing technologies into products that will help solve the practical problems of carrying a concealed firearm in public. Specifically, how to carry a handgun on or about your person that provides sufficient firepower and can be concealed comfortably, safely, and accessibly.

In my paper, I examine various guns and gun-related accessories as objects of material culture, technologies developed by companies small and large into products like guns, holsters, clothing, and bags which are sold to the public as commodities in venues like the United States Concealed Carry Association’s Concealed Carry Expo and the recently announced National Rifle Association Personal Protection Expo.

CCX16 Mobile Tactical (24)

An important part of the CCW equation, of course, has to do with the “W” — the weapon. Smaller guns are easier to conceal and carry, but this benefit is bought at the price of “stopping power” — both caliber and capacity. Gun manufacturers try to negotiate these trade-offs in their gun designs as concealed carry consumers try to identify the ideal gun for them.

While I was trying to find the specs of a gun I was writing about, I came across an interesting website called, which markets itself as “Your Complete Firearms Buying Guide(tm).” What caught my attention was within this site it has a rating system called “Concealed Carry Factors(tm)” which incorporates two central aspects of any gun’s physical specifications. Quoting the Concealed Carry Factors page of the website:

Concealability Factor™ is a measure of how easily a handgun is concealed. Overall length, width, height, and weight all come into play here. Some of these specifications are more important than others — for example, a small change in width can make a very large difference in the concealability of a handgun, while a change in overall length does not, since a long barrel or slide simply extends further down the thigh of a person using an IWB (inside-the-waistband) holster, the most common method of concealing a handgun. Width and weight are the two most important specifications for concealbility, and a relatively small difference in width or weight will quickly lower the Concealability Factor™ of a handgun. Changes in height, or grip length, will not affect a handgun’s Concealability Factor™ as much as width or weight, and changes in overall length has the least effect on this rating.

Firepower Factor™ measures handguns’ effectiveness for self-defense. The caliber a handgun is chambered for, and the number of rounds a handgun can hold, is used to calculate this datapoint. More powerful calibers, like .45 ACP and .357 Magnum, will give a handgun a higher rating than less powerful calibers, like .380 ACP and .38 Special. A larger magazine or cylinder capacity will also result in a higher rating for that firearm. Many firearms are available in more than one caliber, so for these models, a separate Firepower Factor™ is calculated and displayed for each version.

These two factors are then combined to calculate a gun’s “CCW Factor™ (Carry-Capable Weapon)”:

The CCW Factor™ for a handgun takes everything into consideration: overall length, width, height, weight, caliber, and capacity. This gives you a single number that shows each handguns’ suitability for concealed-carry usage, freeing you from the tiresome task of manually comparing the specifications of a dozen or more handguns in order to narrow down your list of choices. Smaller and lighter handguns with a larger caliber and capacity will receive a higher CCW Factor™ than larger and heavier handguns with a smaller caliber and capacity.

The website is very easy to navigate. You can view guns by manufacturer, or you can sort the list by name, price, rating (by users of the website), or CCW Factor. The top 3 CCW Factor semi-automatic pistols according to this system are the Kel-Tec P-3AT, Diamondback DB380/DB380N, and the Ruger LCP .380.


A gun I am particularly interested in comes in 7th on the list, just behind the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 and the Rohrbaugh R9. The Kahr P380 has an overall CCW Factor of 4.09 (out of 5), composed of a very good Concealability Factor of 4.40 and a weaker Firepower Factor of 3.17, which demonstrate the trade-offs inherent in choosing a gun for concealed carry.


Unfortunately, it appears from the absence of recent blog postings (last one in March 2015) and of recent subcompact 9mm handguns (e.g., no Beretta Nano) that WhichGun is not being updated anymore. A link on the site seeks donations, so I imagine the site’s creator might not have been able to monetize his effort.

The site, of course, is suggestive not definitive (and the site admits as much). One important factor that is left out of the CCW Factor equation is shootability. A handgun that maximizes both the Concealability and Firepower Factors can be a bad recipe for disasters like missing your target, being slow on follow-up shots, and shooter-induced malfunctions. Although it is too recent to have received a CCW Factor rating, I found this out when I tried to shoot the Heizer Defense PKO-45 — a 0.8 inch thick semi-auto chambered in .45 ACP with a 2.75 inch barrel.

It would be good to combine the strictly quantitative metrics of WhichGun’s CCW Factor with the slightly more subjective but still quantified metrics of Midway USA’s Larry Potterfield. Viewers of Outdoor Channel’s “The Best Defense” will be familiar with these segments/commercials. The Midway USA system takes into consideration (1) time to first hit, (2) accuracy, and (3) knockdown factor.

Their Rate Your Concealed Carry Handgun website not only explains the system but also allows you to plug in the scores you achieve shooting your own handgun to generate a total score.

Midway USA’s concealed carry handgun rating system, however, does not factor in concealability alongside shootability and firepower. Consequently, the top rated gun listed on the Midway USA site is the .40 caliber Glock 22. At 8.03″ x 5.43″ x 1.18″, this full-size duty weapon is not the easiest gun to conceal and carry comfortably everyday.

As always, the bottom line is trade-offs.


[1] Battani, et al., Sociology on Culture, p. 7.






  1. I was down in Santa Fe over the weekend and stopped by the local gun shop. I had been looking at an LC9s by Ruger. They had a second hand Beretta Px4 Storm Subcompact in 9×19 and on a whim, I decided to buy it as my birthday is this month and I still had my Christmas gift from my dad (a check) burning a hole in my pocket as well. Took it over to the range today and put 30 rounds through it including three different self defense loads and some ball ammo including 115 FMJ Browning stuff and 115 and 135 grain defense loads from Remington and Hornady. The gun shot spot on at ten yards offhand with a nice group and recoil was easily managed resulting in fast followup shots with no stringing. Excellent DA/SA trigger and nice sight picture

    It does get dinged for girth resulting in a mediocre overall score of 3.12–the weapon is a chunky 1.4 inches wide, but has a double stack magazine too (13 rd) which is nice.


      • They didn’t have one on display. I read about the Nano and all those “pocket 9’s” a couple years ago in a G&A article. That was why I thought about the LC9. Almost bought one last fall but then I went in for shoulder surgery and all this other stuff was put on back burner.


  2. Also, not so sure about “…changes in overall length has the least effect on this rating…”

    For short people like me at barely five foot six, the idea of a long handgun hanging out under a coat is a bit of an issue. I wonder if conceal-ability also varies with body type. Sure, a six foot four person could probably hide a Browning HiPower. I don’t have the option of looking inconspicuous with a trenchcoat, which I actually used once to conceal a full size Ruger semiauto. I loose Hawaiian shirt (I have a dozen, left over from my 14 years in the Geology Dept. at the Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa, might just do the trick for avoiding “printing”.


    • p.s., definitely bring back the Hawaiian shirts! I have a few myself from when my dad used to visit his childhood home on Kauai regularly (several years ago now), but they are much shorter than they used to be!


      • Where on Kauai did your dad live? My wife was raised in Honolulu; I met her when I took a job at UH after getting my Ph.D. She taught at Kapiolani CC. I never made it to Kauai as I always loved to get away to the Big Island for getaways, spending a few days at Volcano.

        Kauai got pounded by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. One of my colleagues in SOEST lost his cottage, which was on the south shore near landfall. That was a terrifying day even on Oahu. We had just bought a house and for a while it looked like we were going to be landfall.


      • My dad grew up in Waimea. My grandmother had a house in a sweet spot right off the Waimea pier. Ironically it survived the hurricane but later burned down. And the land just west of the pier was apparently at one time called “Yamane Camp,” though the land was sold off over time. So, no beachfront property for me!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think there is a definite bias in the CCW Factor system toward carrying inside-the-waistband. They seem to think a longer gun doesn’t affect that as much. As someone who sits down for work alot, I don’t agree with that. If you take a YMMV approach, though, it’s a good starting point.

    Liked by 1 person

      • The review essay I wrote on “The Sociology of U.S. Gun Culture” that I shared is still under review at the journal I sent it to. Hopefully will hear some positive news soon, though depending on the journal peer reviews can take 6-9 months, alas.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.